A contraction of 3% or more in the LEI’s six-month annualized rate-of-change has always been associated with a recession, with an average lead time of four months. Using that guideline, the most recent recession warning was triggered in June 2022, and the lead time is now approaching the longest ever recorded (16 months in 2006-07). If today’s lead time matches the 2006-07 experience, the business-cycle peak will occur in October.
Frequently, there’s money to be made in the stock market in the months following the initial curve inversion. After the inversions of August 2006 and June 2019, the S&P 500 rallied another 23% and 19%, respectively, into its final bull market high. If this cycle plays out in textbook fashion, the business-cycle peak would arrive in September.
As suggested in our June 24th, Chart of the Week, the peak in consumer inflation (+8.6% in May) has likely either occurred or is imminent. Consumers should thank the stock market, which in 2022 has taken up its occasional role as inflation-fighter after the Fed abdicated throughout 2021.
The ink hadn’t dried on 2020’s PPP checks when pundits began speculating that the new decade could be a repeat of last century’s “Roaring Twenties.” That’s become a popular view after a booming 5.7% real GDP growth and a nearly 30% stock market gain in 2021. Just how popular? Analysts are already extrapolating their bullish views into the 2030s!
We don’t profess to be professional inflation forecasters, but are struck by a sort of “temporal” mismatch in the arguments used by those who believed the inflation pick up would be temporary. Specifically, the most commonly-cited bullish inflation arguments have been secular in nature, based on long-term trends in technological innovation, demographics, and free trade.
In a couple of weeks, final second quarter EPS for the S&P 500 will confirm the fastest recovery ever from a recession-related earnings decline. That’s old news, and before it has even hit the tape. But we’ve had a sneak peak from the monthly, 12-month trailing EPS numbers published by MSCI for its USA Large Cap Index. Those figures showed that EPS exceeded their pre-COVID peak in May, and the latest reading (through August) is already 22% above the prior high! Simple trendline analysis suggests that EPS for U.S. Large Caps are likely higher today than they would have been in the absence of the COVID pandemic and hyper-stimulative response.
U.S. corporations piled on almost $1 trillion in debt over the first six months of the year (a 10% increase). Corporate debt has now surged to 56% of GDP. We’ve argued that the level of corporate debt isn’t the problem, in and of itself. Rather, it’s what this debt has failed to generate that is the real problem.
How does one value a stock market in which 12-month forward EPS estimates show their widest dispersion in history? A good start might be with methods we use when forward estimates show practically no dispersion (like three months ago). In either case, we place little weight on such estimates; each revision usually has only marginal impact on our 5-Year Normalized EPS.